Trulli, madly, deeply
RIGHT ON THE HEEL of Italy's fashionable boot, Puglia is gloriously quiet at this time of year. Springtime comes early down here, and in early March you can often bask in warm temperatures while the rest of Europe shivers. On top of that, you'll practically have the sweeping coastline and historic hilltop towns to yourselves – all of which makes it the perfect place to shake off winter!
Puglia's colourful history has left an array of sights to explore, from Baroque churches to archaeologically important towns such as Canne della Battaglia, where Hannibal defeated the Romans in 216 BC.
Don't miss one of Puglia's most iconic sights – the traditional beehive-roofed 'Trulli' houses in Alberobello and Locorotondo. Some are still inhabited, while others have been turned into quirky hotel rooms and restaurants.
Take advantage of the early-season quiet to visit fortified old seaside towns like Ostuni, with its weathered, whitewashed houses, or the rambling old quarter of Bari, the region's capital. Even Lecce, with its air of long-faded grandeur, has an unmistakeable appeal.
Set by the sea among lemon groves and vineyards, Masseria Torre Maizza near Ostuni makes a brilliant Puglian base. Former stables now house the plush bedrooms, which are rustic with an urban twist, and a sleek spa can be found in the masseria's dazzling white tower. This luxury boutique hotel can provide everything you want – from homemade olive oil soap to a private yacht for the day.
South of Bari you'll find the lively fishing town of Polignano a Mare, whose whitewashed houses cling dramatically to the edge of vertiginous cliffs plunging straight down into the water. Have dinner at one of the cave restaurants here after kicking things off with a mean mojito at Bodeguita L'Havana de Cuba, down at the water's edge.
Golfing and beach fans will enjoy the pleasing town of Fasano off-season, when you'll have your run of the streets of both the old town and the fairway. Masseria Cimino overlooks the ninth tee of the San Domenico golf course and inside this chic 18th century masseria you'll find authentically rough textured walls, luxury fabrics and soft mood lighting.
Puglia is rightly famous for its food. If you think Italian cuisine stops at pasta, pizza and torta, think again! Watch this space for more on delicious Puglian dishes in the coming weeks.
>> Our best rate guarantee.